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Bug out bag : Emergency Preparedness kit essentials

Putting together a bug out bag with all the emergency preparedness kit essentials has been one of our 2011 goals. As with all the other goals, we have been slacking off on this one. But the recent Japan Earthquake and our own little flooding emergency drove home the fact that we are thoroughly unprepared for any type of disaster or emergency evacuation situation. My husband spent a bunch of time looking through all the ready made “bug out bags”. We faced a couple of problems with just ordering one of those.

  • They list the contents but I can’t really check the quality of the individual items. Just entering “waterproof match” in Amazon shows me a plethora of brands ranging from 5 stars to 1. When your survival depends on these things, you want to be sure… really sure.
  • All of the kits are pretty pricey.
  • None of them were “complete” so to speak. Each of them was missing different things and had some things we didn’t want (like non-vegetarian food supplies).

Instead we tried preparing for our survival ourselves, with the aid of the world wide web. I made a list from various emergency preparedness websites

This is what we ended up with. Not every item may be necessary. I have also included the entire checklist at the end as a pdf. Feel free to download it and pick/choose which ones you feel is necessary.

What is a “Bug out bag”?

According to Wikipedia – A bug-out bag is a portable kit that contains the items one would require to survive for seventy-two hours when evacuating from a disaster. It is also known as a 72-hour kit,a grab bag, a battle box, and other popular names include GO Bag and GOOD (Get Out Of Dodge) bag.

What goes in a bug out bag?

The main criteria for us when assembling the bug out bag was that it has to be light weight. We might be well prepared but we are not military trained. So we purposely wanted everything to be as light weight as possible. You could have a heavier bag with canned food which you can grab if you know you can drive. But if you have to walk, go as light weight as you can.

I basically split the contents into 10 categories.

1. Water

  • Water filter : We got the Katadyn Pocket Water Microfilter. Pricey but has very good reviews. We are planning to use this for our general camping/backing purpose as well, so it was worth the money.
  • Water purification tablets : Polar Pure Water Disinfectant With Iodine Crystals works fast (1 hr) and has indefinite shelf life. Of course, if you can boil the water, that is the best.
  • Stainless Steel Kanteen : Klean Kanteen Stainless Steel Water Bottle portable, and also can be heated by hanging it above a flame. No BPA stuff to worry about.  We could use this for our regular hiking as well.
  • 3 gallon rigid water containers : We bought Reliance Products Desert Patrol 3 Gallon Traditional Jeep Style Rigid Water Container. 2 of these will stay in our car trunks and 1 empty one attached to the bug out bag.
  • Emergency Water Packet : We debated about this and decided to keep some water packets that have a long shelf life and a couple of gallons of regular water. If we have to just grab and run, we would only have the Emergency Water Packet. But if we can load up our car or have to stay in, then those gallons of water will come in handy. We will change them in regular intervals.

Not all of the above are necessary of course. Anyway of getting good, safe water will do. But with any type of disaster, earthquake & fire being the most probable ones in Southern California, water would be the first one to get contaminated. So we wanted to make sure we had a few different ways of getting clean water.

2. Food

I didn’t buy any of the rations yet. I am a vegetarian and most of the options available online were not ideal for me. I plan to visit to REI and stock up on Mountain house meals like – Mountain House Pasta Primavera For TwoMountain House Golden Sweet Whole-Kernel Corn – 2 ServingsMountain House Vegetable Lasagna For Two and  Backpacker’s Pantry Pad Thai Veggie. I will also add in a bag of rice and nuts.

Question : Have you guys tried any of these meals? Do you know of any good vegetarian meal-in-a-pack that has a long shelf life?

3. Shelter

  • Tarp: An essential.
  • Tent : If you have a backpacking tent, that would do I guess. We wanted something cheap and very light so we bought the Emergency Tube Tent.
  • Mylar blankets : Just to provide some warmth. Emergency Mylar Blankets. We are putting a couple of these in the car trunk as well.
  • Emergency sleeping bags : Again, we looked for very light weight bags that would protect us. This won’t provide us with any comfort, for that if we had access to a car we would take our camping equipment that has the comfortable tent and sleeping bags. For this purpose we stuck with this Emergency Sleeping/Survival Bag.


4. Clothing/Protection

  • Change of clothes : Have a couple of extra sweat shirts and pants in the largest size so that anyone can wear.
  • Ponchos : Nothing fancy, just one to keep you dry and not get sick by getting drenched in the rain.
  • Particulate masks : We learned to have these on hand the hard way after the 2007 Southern California fires.
  • Gloves :  Couple of Nitrile and work gloves.
  • Feminine Hygiene : Very very important. Enough said.
  • Red hand Towel : Just a simple hand towel, I chose a red one for this bag so that it will double as a signaling/flag cloth if we need one.

5. Fire/lighting

6. First Aid

  • First Aid Kit : We bought one of these at the end of last year with our Flexible Spending Account money. A good way to use the left over money. I have the expiry date on top of the box to keep it upto date. Should include basic bandages, scissors, NSAID, bandaids, burn gel, antiseptic, Splint and safety pins.
  • Trauma Kit : More hard core stuff than the first aid kit. Has bloodstopper kit, Ammonia Inhalants, flexible Splint, Blood Pressure Cuff, CPR microshield, Trauma dressing, etc. I combined a couple of Kits and the first aid kit, to have my own medi kit. I put them all in this
  • Anti Diarrhea tablets : This was not included in the common first aid kits.
  • Prescription medications : I don’t know how people usually have prescription medication for the bug out bag as you can’t really buy them before hand. We don’t have any prescription medications, but I just want to put it here so that people will think about this and have a plan to grab these when getting out.

7. Tools

8. Communications

  • Hand Crank emergency AM/FM/NOAA radio : We went with Etón FR160B Microlink Self-Powered AM/FM/NOAA Weather Radio as it was hand crank/solar powered, has a flash light and cell phone charger. It is very important to stay informed – latest news, evacuation routes and weather.
  • Two way radio? : We didn’t buy this yet, but want to do some research on this. How do you communicate with your family when you are  several miles apart from each other and there is an evacuation order? No cell phone reception. May be we are over thinking this, but I want to come up with some plan to make sure we know what is happening.
  • Signal Mirror : To attract attention.
  • Satety Whistle : One for each family member.

9. Basic gear

  • Rope/Cord : Handy to tie up your food or set up a tent using your tarp… We bought Rothco 550lb. Type III Paracord.
  • Duct tape : Ask my husband or any engineer they will tell you anything can be fixed using a duct tape.
  • Bug repellent
  • Compass : A simple one.
  • Map of the surrounding area : We are so accustomed to GPS these days that we might be lost without power or any kind of modern electronics. A good old map of the surrounding area is always a good addition.
  • Sun Block : Essential for a hot summer day in Southern California.
  • Zip lock bags : A few of these in different sizes.
  • Trash bags : Again, a couple of them to store dirty clothes and such.
  • Survival Handbook : To identify edible plants and learn basic survival skills.
  • Cash/Coin : A couple of hundred dollars including small denominations and quarters.
  • Deck of cards or sudoku : Definitely not a requirement, but if you want something to keep you occupied.
  • Hygiene Kit : A small travel pouch with soap, Hand Sanitizer, tooth brush & paste.
  • Toilet paper : A couple of rolls.
  • Paper towel : If there is space to keep 1 roll. We set aside 1 small roll, just in case.

10. Other

  • Papers/Documents : As a non-citizen, it is essential for us keep a copy of our immigration documents and passport safe and accessible at all times.
  • Waterproof Flash Drive : We also keep a digital copy of the same documents in a Waterproof Flash Drive.
  • Important phone numbers : Emergency contact numbers.
  • Local Rescue/Emergency/American Red Cross : Local red cross number if we needed help.
  • Notepad/Pencil
  • The actual bug out bag : We packed everything in this TETON Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack. We wanted it to be as light as we could make it and comfortable to walk with.


We didn’t pack anything specific for this but a lot of sites recommend packing some form of defense in the bug out bag.

This is not one cheap bag. We have been saving to put this bag together for a few months now. The original idea is to buy the bag first and then every month buy a few items. After the Japan earthquake, we decided to use part of our emergency fund money to get all the items for the bug out bag. Now that we have the main bag at home, we will slowly build a smaller version of this bag to keep in the car. Do you have a bug out bag?  What did I miss out in mine?

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